Paris, SaintDenisWe are pleased to continue our occasional series of biographies 'Focus on Africans', and bring you information about two of the potential stars of tonight's women's 10,000m final at the Paris 2003 Saint-Denis.
Selina Jebet KOSGEI (kos-GAY), Kenya (5000/10,000/road races)
Born 16 November 1976, Simotwo (40 km E of Eldoret), Keiyo District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya
Corporal in Kenya Prisons Service. Lives mainly in Jua Kali, near Eldoret.
Married in 1995 to Barnabas Kinyor, Commomwealth bronze medalist at 400m H, 1994.
Children: Billy Kipkoech (1996), Marion Jepkemboi (2001).
Keiyo (Kalenjin). Last of nine children. Father a farmer with 14 acres.
Completed school at Kapkenda Girls High School, Keiyo District, 1993. Recruited into Prisons Service 1994.
Manager: Gianni Demadonna. Coach: Barnabas Kinyor, Amos Korir.
Began running in final year at Simotwo Primary School. Finalist in primary schools nationals in both 100m and 200m. Prodigious secondary school athletic career: four times national champion at both 800m and heptathlon, two times at 200m. In final year at schools nationals, won 200, 800 and heptathlon and anchored both winning relays.
Recruited after school as an athlete by Prisons Service. Finished 2nd in Kenya's 1994 Commonwealth Games trials and placed 5th in Victoria (2:03.78) after PB 2:03.38 in semi. Consistently edged by Kenyan teammate Gladys Wamuyu at 800 (Wamuyu was 3rd in Victoria) and frustrated at shortage of professional opportunities for 800m runners, she moved up in distance after birth of first child, Began with Prisons cross country competitions, and in February 1998 finished 6th in IAAF Cross Challenge race in Mombasa. Attracted attention of British manager John Bicourt, who arranged several European track and road races in 1998.
Signed with Demadonna in 1999 and raced with modest success on the track from 800m to 5000m and on the road up to half-marathon. Took most of 2000 and 2001 off for birth of second child and returned to banner year in 2002. Second at 800m in Kenya's Commonwealth Games trials and selected for Manchester in that event, she and her manager concluded she had better medal prospects at 10,000m, which she had never run. Less than a week later, she turned in 32:09.88 while pacing a race in Portugal and persuaded Kenyan team officials to switch her to the 10,000, in which Kenya had only one entrant, two-time World Half-Marathon runner-up Susan Chepkemei.
In Manchester, trailed leaders Chepkemei and Susie Power throughout, and as Chepkemei accelerated into lead with 250m to go, Kosgei blew past both and sprinted clear, covering the final 200 in about 30 seconds and finishing in new Games record 31:27.83.
Comfortably won 10,000 in 2003 Kenya Championships, but two weeks later, in World Championship trials, showed effects the earlier race -- unable to kick away from veteran Leah Malot, easing back after a stretch duel and losing by 2 seconds. Still revealing signs of tiredness the following week in Heusden while running 5000 PB 15:01.79 to finish 3rd behind Isabella Ochichi and Benita Johnson. Says she is now rested and ready to run.
Yearly progression 800/1500/5000/10,000: 1994 - 2:03.38; 1997 - 2:11.0; 1998 - 2:03.6/ 4:19.9/ 15:50.43; 2002 - 2:05.83/ 4:24.45/ 15:20.17/ 31:27.83; 2003 - 15:01.79/ 32:51.4.
Salina Kosgei began in athletics as a sprinter. After school she settled on the 800m, but she grew frustrated at her inability to break into major professional competition in an event with scarce opportunities for any but true world-class runners: "I ran. I won. I went home. It was useless." So, like many of her fellow Kenyans, she moved up in distance. But, also like many of her compatriots, she retains a remarkable turn of speed for a distance runner -- something Susan Chepkemei and Susie Power learned to their cost in last year's Commonwealth Games 10,000.
After disappointing performances in the Kenyan trials and at the Heusden GPII, it remains to be seen whether she can maintain the sort of pace the formidable Ethiopians and Russians are likely to set in World Championships. But if Kosgei is with the leaders on the last lap, the favorites could be in for a surprise.
Werknesh KIDANE (kee-DAH-neh), Ethiopia (5000/10,000m, cross country)
Born 21 November 1981, Mayshie district, near Axum, Tigray region, Ethiiopia.
Lives in Addis Ababa.
Coaches: Kassu Alemayehu (club coach) and Dr. Woldemeskel Kostre (national coach)
Moved to the capital to live with uncle Kidane Demoz, a soldier from northern region of Tigray. A believer in physical fitness, he encouraged Weerknesh to run, and set her on her career path. No other runners in family, but 12-year-old cousin Abebe Kidane beginning to show interest. "He insists on joining me when I run," she says.
At 21, Werknesh is a veteran of seven years of international competition. She was 13th in the World Junior Cross Country in 1997. She won the junior title two years later, and a year after that finished 7th in the Sydney Olympic 5000m final as an 18 year old. She picked up a silver in the senior 4 km race at the World Cross in 2002, but not until 2003 did she really come into her own.
She started by winning the 8 km race at Ethiopia's World Cross trials by more than 10 seconds over a strong field and coming back the next day for 2nd in the 4 km race. Then she duplicated the feat at the World Championships in Lausanne, taking gold in the long race by nine seconds and coming in a close 2nd in the short race the next day.
Her international track season kicked off with a 20 second victory at 10,000m in the Palo Alto GPII, recording a PB and what is still the year's best time, 30:41.40. She went on to notch two more personal bests in major competitions, 14:33.04 at 5000 in the Oslo GL (the #2 time in 2003) and 8:39.51 in the Paris GL. If she can retain her form in the World Championships, even her formidable Ethiopian teammates Derartu Tulu and Berhane Adere will have their hands full trying to beat her.
Prepared by Sabrina Yohannes and John Manners for the IAAF "Focus on Africans" project.
© 2003 IAAF.